HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER Look at what you’ve left us, watch us fight it, watch us win
Walking in the Red Dirt and the Red Carpet: Quality Education in Australia’s First Language
NAOMI FILLMORE & TOM CALMA
Education as a long-held dream
MICHELE HATCH & FARAH ALDULAIMI
SPECIAL ISSUE: THE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN RIGHT TO QUALITY EDUCATION HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER | VOLUME 29: ISSUE 1 – MARCH 2020
AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE Website: www.humanrights.unsw.edu.au Email: email@example.com Twitter: @humanrightsUNSW LinkedIn: Australian Human Rights Institute
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR CAROLINE LENETTE is an arts-based researcher in the School of Social Sciences, and Deputy Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney. Caroline’s research explores how storytelling through creative methods can effect social and policy change, and the ethics of participatory arts-based approaches. Caroline is the Editor-in-Chief for the Human Rights Defender. DR CLAIRE HIGGINS is a Senior Research Fellow at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, at UNSW Sydney. She is the author of ‘Asylum by Boat: origins of Australia’s refugee policy’ (NewSouth, 2017) and was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at Georgetown University, Washington DC, in 2018. DR ANNI GETHIN is a health social scientist with an interest in domestic violence law reform. She coordinates the Brigid Project, a peer support charity for survivors of domestic violence, runs a research consulting business, and lectures in public health and criminology at Western Sydney University. Anni will commence a PhD at Sydney University in 2020 on legal remedies for victims of domestic violence, and perpetrator accountability. ANGELA KINTOMINAS is a Scientia PhD Scholar at UNSW Sydney. Her research interests are in the intersections of gender, socio-economic rights and migration. Her work is informed by feminist, socio-legal and interdisciplinary approaches to law. Angela is a Research Associate with the Social Policy Research Centre and the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative and a Teaching Fellow at UNSW Law. ANDY SYMINGTON is a PhD candidate at UNSW Law and an Associate of the Australian Human Rights Institute. He is researching business and human rights, focusing on the extraction of lithium in the high Andean salt flats of South America. In 2018 he was honoured to be the recipient of UNSW’s inaugural Judith Parker Wood Memorial Prize for human rights law. He is an experienced freelance writer and journalist. JOSH GIBSON is a current PhD Candidate and Garth Nettheim Doctoral Teaching Fellow at UNSW. He is a member of the Australian Human Rights Institute and Gilbert + Tobin Centre. Josh’s research interests include human rights litigation, public interest issues and the role of the courts in the Australian human rights praxis. Josh has experience teaching public law, and legal research at UNSW, and human rights law at Macquarie University. COVER/CONTENTS IMAGE
GUEST EDITOR: DR SALLY BAKER is a Lecturer in the School of Education, Senior Research Fellow with the Gonski Institute for Education and the education ‘focal point’ in the Forced Migration Research Network, an interdisciplinary network of leading researchers at UNSW. Sally’s research and advocacy focuses on supporting the access, transition, engagement and achievement of students from forced migration backgrounds in higher education. Sally is Chair of the national Refugee Education Special Interest Group (refugeeeducation.org), supported by the Refugee Council of Australia.
Cover and contents page design: Stephanie Kay, On the Farm Creative Services Cover illustration: Jess Grey Student editors: Bonnie Hart and Caitie Devereux Production manager: Gabrielle Dunlevy Designer: Stephanie Kay, On the Farm Creative Services Photo of Izzy Raj-Seppings: John Janson Moore Photo of Doha Kahn: Fernando M. Gonçalves
© 2020 Human Rights Defender. The views expressed herein are those of the authors. The Australian Human Rights Institute accepts no liability for any comments or errors of fact. Copyright of articles is reserved by the Human Rights Defender. ISSN 1039-2637 CRICOS Provider Code. 00098G
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The right to learn: Why Australia needs to take a child rights approach to education
Dr Sally Baker and Caitie Devereux
Look at what you’ve left us, watch us fight it, watch us win Izzy Raj-Seppings
Appreciating traditional knowledge – from elders to textbooks AnnMary Raduva
What is the role of education in informing people about the climate crisis? Doha Kahn
The climate of change for school leadership
Education as a long-held dream
Peer education’s role in breaking the stigma and ignorance of people seeking asylum
Michele Hatch and Farah Aldulaimi
Education in transit: Finding the intersection between hopes and rights Tracey Donehue
Walking in the Red Dirt and the Red Carpet: Quality Education in Australia’s First Languages Professor Tom Calma and Naomi Fillmore
The Mother of all Projects: Calling for Decisive Government Action on First Languages Faith Baisden and Geoff Anderson
A dream of a culturally responsive classroom Dr Melitta Hogarth
EDITORIAL EDITORIAL BY DR SALLY BAKER AND CAITIE DEVEREUX
The development of this issue of the Human Rights Defender unfolded during a period of ‘unprecedented’ change in Australia’s history. In November 2019, the bushfires that are characteristic of the Australian summer increased in numbers, size and ferocity in ways that left the public distraught and struggling for breath (literally, on some days). These ‘unprecedented’ fires, caused by ‘unprecedented’ drought and heat, stole the nation’s attention. It was impossible to ignore the ramifications of such massive fires; even those living hundreds of kilometres away were choking on smoke-filled air and sweeping ash from their verandas and windowsills. And these consequences were not restricted to Australia; the snowfields of New Zealand turned brown as the smoke made its way across the ditch. Pictures emerged of South American cities shrouded in this smoke. This was then followed by ‘unprecedented’ heavy rain, causing devastating floods. The new normal had arrived. The uptake of the word ‘unprecedented’ is deceptive: ‘unprecedented’ suggests a somewhat unforeseen misadventure. Yet, as the protesters who attended any of the many rallies, marches and strikes held across the world can attest, we were already furnished with the facts. We understood there were serious risks. In Australia and around the world, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder in our tens of thousands to call for urgent action from our politicians and global leaders. Organisations like School Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion were organising regular local actions to maintain pressure on leaders to shift policy, practices, attitudes. These citizen rebellion groups tapped into public anxiety, responding to the call to account led by (young) climate activists such as Greta Thunberg, echoing her evocative repetition of the question ‘How dare you?’ at a United Nations congress in September 2019. The crowds were growing; protesters were organised; waves of
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protests were international; the mood was somewhat optimistic. Young people lead much of this activism; as the ‘beneficiaries’ of the alarming escalation of decades of political inaction, they have the most to lose. All this changed by December 2019, when Australian citizens were forced to flee their homes or Christmas holiday sites, running for their lives, some risking getting onto rickety boats to escape the flames lapping at the beach. The mood changed to one of raw, palpable anger and fear — and not just in Australia. The climate crisis was inflicting itself on our lives in ways that were unprecedented in terms of scale and loss (of human life, fauna, flora, property, clean air, our taken-forgranted lifestyles). International commentators were aghast at the footage of raging, uncontrollable wildfires juxtaposed against images of other wild weather events, dried up creeks and rivers. Fury sprung from the lack of political action and a tonedeaf program of political spin and misinformation. It became clear that politicians lacked motivation to act on the science or the reality of the disaster unfolding. The mood and the zeitgeist had changed. The imperative for citizen action magnified, the protests now larger, more urgent, more necessary. The heightened international response (including financial) to Australia’s environmental collapse is reflective of a colour-blindness that has long existed in disaster reporting (from the media at least). It is therefore unsurprising that the images that emerged from the Australian bushfires held more currency than concurrent images of devastating floods in Indonesia, or of forced migrants getting on boats in North Africa. The international consternation and condemnation of Australia’s lack of political will and responsive action reflects an underlying shock that a western country is experiencing the kinds of catastrophes that are easier to underreport or minimise in developing countries.
This environmental catastrophe, coupled with ever-growing numbers of people who have been forcibly displaced – and inevitably on the rise with the intensification of the climate crisis – exemplifies one of the most critical challenges for human rights advocacy. It also highlights the importance of education – not just formal, institutional, classroom-based learning, but from the collective, organic gatherings that emerge when our future literally depends on it. Colonisation and the systematic marginalisation of Australia’s Indigenous heritage and practices, such as protective fire methods, continue to be acutely felt, and now cannot be ignored. Politicians deliberately ignoring both scientific and Indigenous knowledges reminds us of the long-lasting impacts of colonial thinking, being and doing. Perhaps for the first time ever, (white) Australia has had to concede that importing colonial and extractive ideas about land management and natural resources may not be the best fit for a country characterised by droughts, fires, and floods. Australians now face the possibility of soon becoming forced (climate) migrants themselves, which is ironic after a sustained commitment to cruel and inhumane deterrence policies. The mood has changed; the tipping point has arrived. This issue both sits against and was shaped by this unfolding environmental crisis. Our focus on the future of the human right to quality education, however, was already in place, for the warning signs were already there: of climate catastrophe, of dehumanising policies on forced migration, of the consequences of centuries-long dismissal of Indigenous rights, self-determination and sovereignty. Our ideas about the future — socioculturally mediated as they have always been — have been disrupted. We are, progressively, less able to make decisions based on a stable future, like many others around the world. So what role should, can and does quality education play in this context? We could compare the musings of Australian PM Scott Morrison, who called for ‘more learning and less activism in schools’, referring to Thunberg’s angry complaint at
the UN that she ‘should be back in school’. Both expose contested views of the role of advocacy in (formal) education, and more profoundly, what counts as education. We could explore the human right to access quality education from the perspective of people seeking asylum who, because of visa uncertainty and a hostile policyscape, find themselves locked out of postcompulsory schooling in countries like Australia, or excluded from state-funded education in ‘transit countries’ like Indonesia that are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Or we could explore what access to ‘quality’ (read: culturally appropriate, responsive, respectful) education looks like for First Nations peoples in post-colonial contexts. There is consensus that quality education remains a fundamental need and human right, but teasing out what that looks like, and who gets to decide what ‘counts’, remains a site of deep division. Our focus on the future of the human right to quality education is no accident. It is the most pressing question that underpins this extended editorial, and the wonderful international contributions we have curated. With their futures unstable, our young peers have the biggest stake and will pay the highest price for political inertia. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the activism and advocacy of young people takes centre stage when it comes to demanding change and access to quality education. The importance of education in all its glorious forms is a companion issue to the challenges that we focus on in this issue. The amplification of young people’s demands through their public advocacy and protesting is a disruptive and vocal response to these contemporary challenges, and we celebrate this. Coupled with the views of school, community and university educators, we seek to reflect the myriad perspectives on the challenges created by the climate crisis, forced migration, and the degradation of Indigenous languages, knowledges and practices. Our contributors express their passion for quality education now and in the future. We open the issue with the thoughts of the out-going Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, who writes about the need to adopt a child rights approach to supporting the human right to access quality education in Australia.
In particular, Commissioner Mitchell outlines how the aims for education included in Article 29 of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child can be operationalised to protect children’s right to quality education. The rights outlined in Article 29 clearly connect with our three themes, in particular respect for human rights — which is related to the right to freedom of assembly and association with regard to the youth-led activism profiled in this issue — respect for the natural environment and respect for cultural identity and affiliation. In the first section, education is discussed as a tool to understand the changing climate, and something to sacrifice for young climate activists who participate in school. From Australia, we hear from Sydney schoolgirl Izzy-Raj Seppings, who reflects on her eventful summer including speaking up at a Town Hall climate protest, while Doha Khan outlines the origins and objectives of School Strike 4 Climate movement. Moving to a Pacific neighbour, AnnMary Raduva shares her family knowledge from Fiji and the United Arab Emirates and how this informs her anti-litter campaign and activism as a high school student. These young voices highlight that ‘quality’ education extends beyond classrooms and curriculums and includes listening to our environment, village elders and fellow students. School Principal Denise Lofts describes her students overcoming the catastrophic bushfires in their community to focus on renewing the landscape, protecting wildlife and taking action on the climate emergency. In the second section, we examine the importance and challenges of education in the context of forced migration. Refugee-background student Farah Aldulaimi and her teacher Michele Hatch share the highs and lows of continuing education in Australia when on a temporary protection visa. In addition to the pressures and stresses of final year exams, Farah faced obstacles such as studying in English as her third language and barriers to university education because her temporary status results in her being classed as an international student (and therefore charged full fees). Her resilience and Michele’s support inspires others to continue their education despite these profound difficulties. Luiza Knijnik explores the role of peer education in assisting the transition of refugee-background
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students in Australian high schools. From Indonesia, Tracey Donehue explains how people seeking asylum are denied access to formal education in transit countries and the role of Alternative Learning Centres to fill a gap in educational access. In this final section, our contributors explore what is sorely missing in our education system, as we consider the importance of Indigenous languages and cultural education. As these articles attest, there is still much work to be done to recognise and celebrate Indigenous languages, knowledges and educational practices. Looking towards the future and the upcoming UN Decade for Indigenous Languages, it is clear that Australia can do better. Tom Calma and Naomi Filmore outline the right to practice First Languages and the advantages of doing so. Their article highlights that using English as the sole language of teaching – reflective of a monocultural curriculum – deny Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the right to practice their language and culture, and overlooks benefits such as enhanced learning, engagement, resilience and socio-emotional health. Following on from this mandate, Faith Baisden from First Languages Australia write about the need for coordinated government action to protect the human right to access education in First Languages. We conclude the issue with a powerful and evocative article from Melitta Hogarth, Senior Lecturer in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, in which she outlines how Indigenous students are currently excluded in myriad tacit ways from Australia’s ‘whitestream’ education system. Melitta offers critique of the endemic marginalisation of First Nations knowledges, before ending with her dreams for how education systems could adapt to offer more recognitive, inclusive and culturally safe learning environments for all children.
THE RIGHT TO LEARN: WHY AUSTRALIA NEEDS TO TAKE A CHILD RIGHTS APPROACH TO EDUCATION MEGAN MITCHELL Megan Mitchell served as Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner from 25 February 2013 to 24 March 2020, focusing solely on the rights and interests of children, and the laws, policies and programs that impact on them. Ms Mitchell was previously the NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People, Executive Director of the ACT Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, Executive Director for Out-of-Home Care in the NSW Department of Community Services and CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service. Ms Mitchell holds qualifications in social policy, psychology and education.
A common assumption in Australia is that all children and young people have access to free, high-quality education. Unfortunately, all too often this is not the case. Many children experience major difficulties in accessing education, including children with disability, children living in remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people who are pregnant or parenting. My most recent report to the Australian Parliament, In Their Own Right: Children’s Rights in Australia (2019) 1, highlights the educational disadvantage suffered by particular groups of children within Australia. The underlying causes of this disadvantage are complex and multifactorial, but I offer the following as a brief overview of key issues:
• Children and young people with disability in Australia continue to face challenges in accessing education. A significant majority of the complaints relating to children that were received by the Australian Human Rights Commission in the 2018–19 reporting year were received under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) in the area of education.2 The lack of medical and allied services for children in remote areas, in particular, can affect access to education for children with disability. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and early intervention services are examples of services that are not readily available in regional and remote areas, yet these play a crucial role in supporting
children with disability to participate in education on an equal basis with others.
• National reading and numeracy outcomes for children in Australia decline with remoteness. For example, in 2017 the proportion of Year 5 students that achieved at or above the national minimum standard in reading was 95% in major city areas compared to 52.7% in very remote areas,3 and in numeracy was 96.2% in major cities compared to 60.7% in very remote areas.4 • Educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are poor when compared to their nonIndigenous peers. School attendance, literacy and numeracy targets did not meet the Closing the Gap goals set by the Australian Government for 2018, although targets on early childhood education enrolment are on track.5 • Section 38(c) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) currently allows religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Discrimination is also permitted on the basis of pregnancy or breastfeeding. This legislation gives religious schools the ability to exclude particular students. This directly contravenes Article 2 of the Convention, which prohibits these types of discrimination. • Children themselves identify serious problems with the way education is delivered. During my own consultations with children in 2018, many commented that their capacity to learn was hampered by a rigid, one size-fits all approach to learning that does not respond to the individual needs and circumstances of students.
A CHILD’S RIGHT TO EDUCATION
interests of the child that is protected under Article 3.
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) 6, Australia has an obligation not just to be a provider of education, but also to protect and respect a child’s right to be educated.
The Committee states that, “The overall objective of education is to maximise the child’s ability and opportunity to participate fully and responsibly in a free society.”8 The broad language of Article 29 affords much flexibility in how this overarching objective can be met and allows for a balanced approach to placing the child at the centre of education.
Article 28 of the Convention provides that: • Primary education should be compulsory and free (Article 28(1)(a)) • Secondary education should be freely accessible and reflect and address a variety of needs and interests (Article 28(1)(b)-(d)) • Schools should promote regular attendance (Article 28(1)(e)) • School disciplinary measures should respect children’s dignity and reflect the general values of the Convention (Article 28(2)).
The Committee provides practical suggestions for integrate these values. These include:
• Re-writing national school curricula; • Frequently and consistently updating textbooks, teaching materials and school policies; • Training teachers, child education workers and school administrators in the implementation of Article 29; and • Ensuring that teaching methods further Article 29 and the general objects of the Convention.
Article 29 then sets out the aims of education. These include the development of: • the full potential of the child in relation to their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities • respect for human rights • cultural identity and affiliation • a sense of responsibility towards others, and respect for diversity • respect for the natural environment.
These kinds of mechanisms can help to ensure that children’s rights are fundamentally protected and upheld by the education system, and not imposed in a fragmented or arbitrary way. Adopting a child rights approach reshapes everything from the relationship between educator and student, to the physical setting in which children play and learn. It entails new forms of educator training and measurements of success. It also involves moving the voices, rights and interests of children to the centre of education systems.
The values and aims set out under Article 29 demonstrate the way in which education provides a child not just with formal knowledge, but also contributes to a broader understanding of their personal and ethical obligations towards society. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has provided governments with more comprehensive guidelines about how they can fulfil their obligations to children and young people under Article 29 in General Comment No.1: The Aims of Education (2001).7
Central to this approach is recognising, in both theory and practice, that children and young people are active players in the learning process, rather than just recipients of adult knowledge. It also fosters school connectedness – where students feel personally accepted, respected and supported in the school environment.9 In turn, this has a positive effect on attendance, academic achievement and the emotional and physical health of children.
The Committee advises that Article 29 should not be viewed as a standalone, exhaustive list of the aims of education, but should be interpreted in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a whole. For instance, ensuring that education develops a child’s respect for their cultural identity and national language also upholds the principle of the best
1. Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s Rights Report 2019 https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/childrens-rights/ publications/childrens-rights-report-2019. 2. Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s Rights Report 2019, 85 https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/childrensrights/publications/childrens-rights-report-2019. 3. Productivity Commission, Report on Government Services (2018), Chapter 4, 4.22 <https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/ report-on-government-services/2018/child-care-education-andtraining/school-education>. 4. Productivity Commission, Report on Government Services (2018), Chapter 4, 4.24 <https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/ report-on-government-services/2018/child-care-education-andtraining/school-education>. 5. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Closing the Gap
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We need to recalibrate our education system in order to place the diverse needs of children and young people at the forefront. Children’s rights need to be embedded within curricula, teaching practice, classrooms and built environments. Only then will we see the type of cultural change required to ensure that children from all walks of life are empowered to flourish and thrive.
6. 7. 8. 9.
Report: Prime Minister’s Report 2019 (2019) 10 <https:// ctgreport.niaa.gov.au/>. Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force 2 September 1990). United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No.1: The Aims of Education (article 29), 26th session, CRC/GC/2001/1, 17 April 2001. United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No.1: The Aims of Education (article 29), 26th session, CRC/GC/2001/1, 17 April 2001, para 12. Rebekah Chapman et al, ‘School-based programs for increasing connectedness and reducing risk behaviour: a systematic review’ (2013) 25(1) Educational Psychology Review.
‘LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE LEFT US, WATCH US FIGHT IT, WATCH US WIN.’ IZZY RAJ-SEPPINGS Izzy Raj-Seppings is a 13-year-old student activist who started protesting in September 2019. She is a member of School Strike 4 Climate and a junior ambassador for Surfrider1 and Planet Ark 2. Image: ©John Janson Moore
“Shouldn’t you be in school, learning something useful?” This phrase is something almost every young activist has heard before. People say this to make us feel like we aren’t doing anything productive and that we would be better off sitting in a classroom taking notes. I think the exact opposite is true, I think this summer was an education. If I’m being honest, I learnt more relevant information this summer than I did the entire Year 7. The Town Hall protest was the highlight of my summer, I felt heard and understood by so many people. I made memories that I’ll carry with me my entire life, just from a couple of weeks of activism. I’m learning about how the world works. I’m learning about politics, about human rights, about law, democracy, corruption, media, perception, global input, economics. I learnt about friendship, about jealousy and about trolls but also about support, overwhelming support. I made stronger, closer friendships and left some old ones behind. I even learnt how to control my nerves, how to speak confidently in front of tens of thousands of people, I learnt how to write powerful speeches that get my message across and also how to write some the night before, as I had completely forgotten about them. I’m learning about time management and organisation the hard way.
1. Surfrider Foundation Australia is a registered not-for-profit ‘searoots’ organisation dedicated to the protection of Australia’s waves and beaches. See: https://www.surfrider.org.au/.
I’m learning about the right-wing and left-wing of politics, I’m learning about parties and policies. I learnt more about our PM, I learnt of his denial and of his love of coal. I’m learning about elections and how people are so easily persuaded. I learnt about how taxpayer money can apparently go to your own church. I have learnt all this and more in just five weeks. It’s an opportunity I believe many students should experience. I think the education system should spend more time encouraging and educating kids who want to learn and participate in the environmental action movement. I think the education system should teach kids more about what’s happening to our Earth and our country and how they can help in any way they can. I also think they should teach kids more about the negative parts of government, such as corruption and the subtle buying of votes. It may be alarming but it’s the truth and I believe we deserve to know the truth. I’m proud and keen to share this information because I was inspired by listening to other young people and now I’ve been given the opportunity to possibly do the same. I think it’s absolutely vital for our generation to be learning more about the issue and be able to have a say, as it involves us and our future. I got famous for holding up a sign. A sign with the message ‘Look at what you’ve left us, watch us fight it, watch us win.’ I strongly believe we can win this fight, together. The first step is educating ourselves.
2. Planet Ark Environmental Foundation is an Australian not-for-profit organisation with a vision of a world where people live in balance with nature. See: https://planetark.org/.
APPRECIATING TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE – FROM ELDERS TO TEXTBOOKS ANNMARY RADUVA AnnMary Raduva is a 16 year old in Year 11 at Saint Joseph’s Secondary School in Fiji. She is a teen climate activist and conservationist and founder of “Say NO to Balloon Releasing Fiji”1 and “Young Eco-Champs Fiji”2. AnnMary is an internationally-recognised eco-champ, public speaker, influencer, advocate and student.
Informal education like songs, art, storytelling and traveling taught me more about how to preserve the environment than learning that in the classroom. It has helped me to recognise the pollution that is linked to the releasing of balloons. It will take a while for people to equate the release of balloons into the atmosphere with future pollution. Pacific Islanders do have a special relationship with the climate because their lives evolve around the sea. It is their source of food security. My mother shares how the climate and the sea patterns dictate their protein supply: the darkest night of the month, lit lit he ta, means lobsters, and a moonlit and very low tide on the reef means red bass. They equate the weather patterns and seasons with food stock. The traditional navigators know the currents, the wind patterns, the stars to steer by and the season to set sail. They judge the prevailing winds and know the best tropical food to preserve for those long voyages. This knowledge needs to be re-taught, for us and the beautiful planet. The traditional knowledge is present in the villages, but how much of that is passed down to the children is an open question. My mother grew up on the far-flung island of Rotuma, 460km north-west of Fiji’s main island of Viti
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Levu. She relays how the elders taught them the tell-tale warning signs that a tsunami is arriving and identifying the beginning of the hurricane season; spanning November to April. They were lessons inherited during her childhood. To some, my ‘Say No Balloon Release Campaign’ is an intrusion on their rights, a restriction on their event management and enjoyment. The establishment of the “Say NO to Balloon Releasing” and the “Young Eco Champions Network” aim to empower and support young activists, because we feel that not a lot of attention is given to young activists below the age of 18, thus the urgency to establish a network or league for young ecochampions. Not everyone’s story will go viral but the more empowering stories we have, the better it is. Additionally, this is our future we are talking about. The recent environmental breaches here in Fiji namely, at Savusavu and Malolo 3, are a wake-up call for my generation. I also created the Young Eco Champions network for children under 18 to reshape the awareness landscape around climate change and the ecological crisis. I am confident that this network of young, inspired and empowered activists will create change in protecting our environment. There is always a misconception that young children have no say on climate change and conservation issues, and we face discrimination because of our age and gender.
In my effort to raise awareness on the effects of balloons, I wrote a letter to the Fijian government calling on them to revise the Fiji Litter Act 2008. It needs to be updated. These environment guidelines must classify balloon releasing as littering and we must always look for ecofriendlier alternative ways to celebrate events and lifetime achievements. One of them is planting mangroves, trees and walking the conservation talk. My knowledge of the environment started at home at a very young age. We lived, then, on the family farm and my late paternal grandfather taught me so much about the weather and its effects on farm life. He was a retired Fijian military officer and an organic farmer, and he would talk about how to preserve the soil and ‘rejuvenate’ its nutrients. He would patiently explain why the contour style of planting and how the seasons dictated which crops to grow. He also shared his experiences in the Middle East in regard to the weather patterns and the minimalistic lifestyle of the desert dwellers.
AnnMary on the streets of lower Manhattan with students from New York, at the New York City climate strike march on September 20, 2019. AnnMary says: “We had something in common we are fighting for our planet together!”
Later, in 2012 and again in 2016, I holidayed in the desert of the United Arab Emirates with my maternal grandparents. They live in the Oasis City of Al Ain and they took me to Green Mubazzarah, a parkland on the outskirts of the city. I was amazed at its greenery and well-kept lawns. Today, I am pleased to read that the mangrove walk in Abu Dhabi is now open to the public. It is ‘a gorgeous boardwalk amidst a landscape of mangroves that stretches along Yas Island.’ So basically, I learned more about the environment and climate change at home than at school.
Thinking of quality education for the future, all stakeholders must seriously consider including climate change and its escalating crisis into all school syllabi! It must be an integral part of any worthy curriculum not just another chapter in a glossy textbook.
There is a growing trend around the world recognising that disposable plastics are damaging to the environment. Global, regional and in-country awareness of both plastic disposal and release of balloons must begin at home and be re-enforced at school. If a child cannot identify that plastic is litter and is harmful to the flora and fauna, then we face an uphill struggle in preserving our environment. I know that the challenge to make the public aware of the harmful effects of released balloons is a task – particularly in Fiji – but I am determined to press on because it is so important to protect the environment and all the beautiful creatures. Some may say my passion is idealistic, I say it is practical and essential for the survival of our planet.
There must be a global awareness of the effects of climate change irrespective of location, state of vulnerability, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), its industrial might or if it is a laidback Pacific haven – even though our islands and atolls are on the frontline of climate change and sea level rise. Climate change matters the same everywhere in the world. Any school – formal or informal – must talk climate change in the simplest and most pragmatic way. Climate change awareness must start with toddlers and travel to the senior citizens. It is imperative that the world’s custodians – all of us – manage our resources, relook at green-clean-lean environmental practices and re-nurture Mother Earth.
1. https://www.facebook.com/annmary.raduva.3. 2. https://twitter.com/annmary_raduva. 3. Wasuka, E (2019, April 17) ‘Fiji Opposition calls for checks on other development projects in light of Freesoul case’. Retrieved from: https:// www.abc.net.au/radio-australia/programs/pacificbeat/fiji-opposition-calls-for-checks-on-other-development-projects/11023462.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN INFORMING PEOPLE ABOUT THE CLIMATE CRISIS? DOHA KHAN Doha Khan is the co-founder of the South Australian branch of the School Strike 4 Climate movement, and in her final year of high school at Marden Senior College, in Adelaide. She has been involved in organising the Climate Strikes since November 2019 and has helped build and empower an expansive network of student activists. To learn more about School Strike 4 Climate, visit: www.schoolstrike4climate.com
The climate crisis is the greatest threat facing humanity.1 This label is not given lightly: while the climate crisis is sometimes mistaken as just an environmental issue, its far-reaching social, economic, and political impacts highlight that it is anything but. On our current trajectory, we can expect to see between 3 to 5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels within the century.2 The repercussions of this cannot be overstated. Experts predict that the increase in temperature will result in the collapse of ecosystems, the extinction of millions of species, the loss of glaciers, and the submersion of land relied upon by countless communities.3 Estimates suggest that 25 million to 1 billion people could be displaced as environmental migrants by 2050, having to either move within their countries or across borders, as a result of climate impacts.1 The future looks bleak. However, scientists have highlighted that the worst of the climate crisis can still be averted by taking drastic action to cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030.4 While various commitments 5 have been made by countries to keep the
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global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, many governments have demonstrated a lack of political will to fulfil their obligations.6 However, as information on the climate crisis and its political context is being promoted and made accessible, millions of people across the world have stepped up to take part in large-scale mobilisations such as the #ClimateStrikes to demand action. These events most recently turned out over 300,000 school children,7 workers and supporters in Australia, and over 4 million people world-wide in September of 2019.8 Inspired by Greta Thunberg,9 School Strike 4 Climate is a student-led movement which exists to pressure world governments to implement policies to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.10
It confronts authority figures with a question: ‘why should any young person be made to study for a future, when no one is doing enough to save that future?’. The role of education in empowering and enabling students to join the climate movement cannot be overstated.
1. Meyer, R. (2019, August 8). This Land Is the Only Land There Is. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ science/archive/2019/08/how-think-about-dire-new-ipccclimate-report/595705/. 2. Reuters. (2018, November 29). Global temperatures on track for 3-5 degree rise by 2100: UN. Thomson Reuters Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/ article/us-climate-change-un/global-temperatures-on-trackfor-3-5-degree-rise-by-2100-u-n-idUSKCN1NY186. 3. Vince, G. (2019, May, 19). The heat is on over the climate crisis. Only radical measures will work. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/ environment/2019/may/18/climate-crisis-heat-is-on-globalheating-four-degrees-2100-change-way-we-live. 4. The Climate Reality Project. (2019, March 18). Why is 1.5 Degrees the Danger Line for Global Warming? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/ blog/why-15-degrees-danger-line-global-warming. 5. United Nations Climate Change. (2018). What is the Paris Agreement? Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-andmeetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement.
Photo: ©Fernando M. Gonçalves
The stories of many activists within School Strike 4 Climate feature moments in which the severity of the climate crisis became clear to them – whether in the middle of a school lesson, or whilst doing research online – and they subsequently developed an awareness of the lack of political action being undertaken to address it.11 Many eventually became involved in this movement out of a desire to do something, in the face of a government that is largely doing nothing. More broadly, education has changed the face of the climate change debate in Australia. The annual Climate of the Nation report,12 which tracks Australia’s attitudes towards climate change and energy, recently found that Australians are increasingly concerned about climate change and increasingly accepting of the science behind it. From droughts to the recent floods that have ravaged Australia, the impacts of the climate crisis are increasingly being recognised as such. It has allowed the debate to become more informed and shrunk the portion of society which ‘disbelieves’ or is ‘not sure’ on the issue.13 Education will continue to play an integral role in not only informing people of the climate crisis, but also empowering them to act on it. While the fear of this has resulted in various news sources actively attempting to combat its effect by propagating disinformation,14 people from all walks of life are recognising the climate crisis for what it is, a crisis, and joining the campaign to demand climate action.
6. Stock, P. (2018, December 21). Let’s Get Something Straight- Australia is Not on Track To Meet Its Paris Climate Target. Climate Council. Retrieved from: https://www. climatecouncil.org.au/australia-not-on-track-to-meetclimate-targets/. 7. ABC. (2019, September 21). Global climate strike sees ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Australians rally across the country. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-20/schoolstrike-for-climate-draws-thousands-to-australianrallies/11531612. 8. Barclay, E. & Resnick, B. (2019, September 22). How big was the global climate strike? 4 million people, activists estimate. Vox. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/energyand-environment/2019/9/20/20876143/climate-strike-2019september-20-crowd-estimate. 9.
BBC. (2020, January 28). Who is Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate change activist? BBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49918719.
10. Fridays for Future. (2018). About #FridaysForFuture. Retrieved from: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/about. 11. Williams, T. (2019, March 13). Adelaide School Strike 4 Climate coincides with National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The Advertiser. Retrieved from: https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/ adelaide-school-strike-4-climate-coincides-with-nationalday-of-action-against-bullying-and-violence/news-story/72a 01e22ed5882dc9edb74de4291fa24. 12. Merzian, R., Quicke, A., Bennett, E., Campbell, R. & Swann, T. (2019). Climate of the Nation 2019. The Australia Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.tai.org.au/sites/default/files/ Climate%20of%20the%20Nation%202019%20 %5BWEB%5D.pdf. 13. Kilvert, N. (2019, September 10). Climate change survey shows Australians want action on emissions, but are divided on nuclear. ABC Science. Retrieved from: https://www.abc. net.au/news/science/2019-09-10/climate-of-nationaustralia-attitudes/11484690. 14. Bolt, A. (2020, January 26). The truth that warmists continue to dodge. Herald Sun. Retrieved from: https://www. heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/andrew-bolt/andrew-boltthe-truth-that-warmists-continue-to-dodge/news-story/097a 81d4783b2d0bfa73d72d4d9421f9.
THE CLIMATE OF CHANGE FOR SCHOOL LEADERSHIP: STUDENT AGENCY = STRONG HEART. CLEAR MIND. DENISE LOFTS Denise Lofts is the Principal of Ulladulla High School. Ulladulla is a small coastal town in New South Wales, and this community was one of the most affected areas by the devastating bushfires in January 2020.
In 2019, I received an email from my School Captain: “Hi Miss, thank you so much for your support. Jade, Lachlan and I really appreciate it”. This ended an email chain where the School Captain, Takesa, an incredible young Aboriginal woman, told me that I could attend her speech that she would give to local government about their urgent plea for climate change letters advocating for policy change on the environment to be sent from the local government to the National Parliament in Canberra. In doing so, she was representing the Youth of the Shoalhaven, along with two other students from Ulladulla High School (UHS).
This speech was on the back of a ‘Change the conversation on Climate Change Rally”, held at Ulladulla High School on 15 March during lunchtime. While other students were missing school to attend climate rallies, our students clearly articulated their stances, not by missing school, but by ensuring the focus remained on the issues at school. This clear, succinct, mindful and deliberate protest by Takesa, and 300 of her fellow students, could not be ignored. The event was attended by our
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local newspaper reporters, a local environmental action group, ‘Treading Lightly in the Mud,’ and local community representatives. This is only touching the surface of what the student environment council have done. They have undertaken a variety of environmentally conscious activities, ranging from removing plastic bottles to introducing composting across the school and establishing a community twilight market in the school grounds that sells local produce with a focus on sustainable processes. They have also advocated for bins to dispose of fishing lines to be located at our local harbour by the local government to protect our sea life, which are now present at our harbour. This type of agency is mirrored across many young people and schools. Student agency, I believe, will continue to influence the way in which we do business in our schools and beyond. How we are seeing student agency in response to climate change is unprecedented. Kids today are different from students only three or four short years ago. They are progressive, more informed, and passionate about issues globally and are taking action locally. This may sound somewhat clichéd, but mark my words, activism in our schools is alive and strong. UHS, along with many other schools around Australia, is proof of this. Catapult us to today, the summer of 2020, where our rural community has been one of the hardest
hit school communities as a result of the catastrophic bushfires. Many students and their families have experienced a range of hardships, from losing their homes to spending the summer fighting fires and experiencing consecutive evacuations, to now undertaking the extensive clean up. However, the student response has not been one of helplessness. Instead, they have begun to leverage this as a platform to advocate the focus to be about wildlife, the human made climate change and the renewal of our bush and landscape. ‘Treading lightly’,1 ‘Take Three for the Sea’,2 and ‘Fight for the Bight’,3 are all protests that our students have in many cases led in our community and across our school. If a student experiences and observes firsthand what it is like to serve others, this is the world and this is learning. They have observed the services thinking strategically, the fire officers planning their operations, the meteorologists carefully watching the weather, the hotel managers who operated to house evacuated families, the nurses, the psychologists, the caterers, the traffic control managers, the truck drivers, police, paramedics, the journalists and the list went on.
At UHS we want our students to see learning as connected to the world they live in, and how what they do today serves them well for tomorrow. As we know they will be the psychologists, the meteorologists, the managers and the firefighters of tomorrow. This is an opportunity to enliven the real connection of education. This is what UHS has shown is possible.
TURNING TO ONE ANOTHER POEM BY MARGARET WHEATLEY There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about. Ask: “what’s possible?” not “what’s wrong?” Keep asking. Notice what you care about. Assume that many others share your dreams. Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Talk to people you know. Talk to people you don’t know. Talk to people you never talk to. Be intrigued by the differences you hear. Expect to be surprised. Treasure curiosity more than certainty. Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something. Know that creative solutions come from new connections. Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know. Real listening always brings people closer together. Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world. Rely on human goodness.
1. See: https://www.facebook.com/ TreadingLightlyInc/. 2. See: https://www.facebook.com/Take-3-forShoalhaven-1800403430173115/. 3. See: https://www.fightforthebight.org.au/home-1.
EDUCATION AS A LONG-HELD DREAM MICHELE HATCH Michele Hatch is a volunteer teacher of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Michele has worked with children as a Registered Nurse in a children’s hospital, running a swim school business and teaching English for an Australian notfor-profit in Mexico. When Michele became very sick due to local poor water quality, she wondered why she was not working to make a difference in Australia. Michele completed a Graduate Certificate in TESOL at Macquarie University and was appointed to Farah’s family as a homework helper.
FARAH ALDULAIMI Farah Aldulaimi is an Iraqi asylum seeker living in Sydney, who has received a special scholarship to attend university.
FARAH’S STORY: My name is Farah from Iraq. I’m 18 years old. I came with my family to Australia by boat to seek asylum in 2012. We received a TPV (Temporary Protection Visa) in 2017. Since I was five, I had always felt the urge to move. Me and my family just wanted to take refuge in a place where we could live in peace. Prior coming to Australia I lived in Syria for one year and Greece for five years. During my journey of coming to Australia I travelled to Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. These travel experiences led me to learn three different languages including Greek, Arabic and English. I have dark and traumatic childhood stories. This is when my journey started as a refugee child. I thought it was now going to get better but it didn’t as no one was ready to take us. Ever since we left home, we never got permanently accepted to just have a peaceful life without the fear of being deported from the country any second. My parents sacrificed their lives to get me where I’m at now. For this main reason, I want to seek further education to become an independent woman and give back to my family and all the people that helped me on the way. Education is a human right and I believe I
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deserve to be given a chance to prove myself. I want to show the world and young refugee girls that they are capable of doing everything and nothing should stop them from fighting towards fulfilling their dreams and becoming independent, proud women. My dream and the career path I’m hoping to pursue is a Bachelor of Architecture. Architecture can satisfy my imagination in space, materials, and colour.
During the HSC I was suffering from anxiety and stress as I wasn’t given the same rights and opportunities as my peers. I am unable to go and continue my studies at university like them because I am a refugee student who came to Australia ‘illegally’ by boat seeking a place where I would live in peace with my family, seeking an education and human rights. So when everyone else in my peer group was focused on HSC studying or what to study at uni or what dress to pick for graduation, I was affected by severe stress, thinking, will I even be able to make it that far, or how is
my family going to support my studies? It was hard for me to learn three different languages, it took sleepless nights throughout my journey of schooling to be able to get the grades I wanted. I missed a year out of schooling during the time my family and I were coming to Australia. Being an ESL (English as a Second Language) student I had to put twice as much effort in as my other peers because I didn’t understand English. I still gave it my best and worked within the best of my abilities. Facing those financial disadvantages I have applied for an asylum seeker scholarship to be able to fulfil my dreams. I believe there should be more scholarships for students on temporary protection/ bridging visas who are financially disadvantaged and have several barriers. Those scholarships are a chance to bring refugee students’ dreams to life. Those scholarships are not just about my dreams and future but I believe it will give hope to other needy and hopeless refugees like me in the future. Those scholarships will not just support me, but will also support other students who are seeking further education. I hope my story makes refugee students feel they are not alone and that together we can make a change. MICHELE WRITES: I began working with Farah five years ago, when she had just graduated from the ESL section of Marsden High School, in Sydney’s north-west suburbs. She was shy and her English skills limited, but she was very keen to learn and do her best. English for Farah is her third language after her native Arabic and the Greek she learned during the two years the family spent in Cyprus as refugees from Iraq. After that Farah missed several years of schooling on their journey to Australia.
others to experience that same love. At the moment, Farah’s family are on temporary protection visas. I have witnessed the times when the visas have expired and the family is in limbo and the threat of deportation has loomed large. I know and I do not need to ask. All these difficulties have made Farah strong. She battles through. At times I have seen Farah write letters asking for permission to attend the school camp or debate with the school principal as to why she could not apply to be considered for election as a school prefect (her attendance was one day too short that year) and fight for her corner. Farah is basically a shy person, but she shows strength and fortitude. As for the future, I am not sure. However, Farah is determined to make the best of her lot. I know more of the family’s struggles from Omar, who told me of how their Sunni family were persecuted in Baghdad by the Shiite majority and Daesh. I learned how dad Raad had to give up his job as a motor mechanic and worked checking cars for bombs outside the Australian army base, for which he has letters of commendation. Raad learned about the beauty of Australia from the soldiers. Then one day, ten-year-old Omar was captured and held until extended family members paid the ransom. The family left Iraq the next day. On their way to Australia, Farah has described the scary night the soldiers boarded their leaky boat off the coast of Australia after traveling in rough seas from Indonesia. She said there was much shouting and gun waving and she remembers being very scared. After years of traveling, the family arrived just one month after Julia Gillard declared that no-one who arrived by boat could stay.
Studying at university is a long-held dream of Farah and she is supported and encouraged by her parents. Big brother Omar is studying medical engineering on one of the first refugee scholarships offered at Newcastle University and he is a great role model and inspiration for Farah.
Farah has received a scholarship to study at UTS. And now I begin focusing on the youngest sibling, Mohammed, who is entering Year 8. Several things could help Farah’s family, particularly the elimination of the 785 Temporary Protection Visa, specific for people who have arrived into Australia by boat, and which limits study, work and permanent residency. This visa does not take into account people’s experiences in their own country or suitability for resettlement. Farah’s family cannot return to Baghdad due to their Sunni minority heritage and Raad’s work with the Australian Armed Forces, for which he was seen by the Shiite locals as a traitor.
Although Farah is still a little uncertain of her future career choice, she especially enjoyed her work experience time at younger brother Mohammed’s primary school. I saw her come home with such joy as she experienced the day of a classroom teacher. Farah loves learning and inspiring
I hope that Farah’s story ends brightly. She has received a refugee scholarship to enable her to gain a degree, which is an opportunity for her to continue studying and to contribute to the country that she has settled into and worked hard to create her own future.
Farah has proved to be a very diligent student and I know that before an assignment was due, Farah would often work until the early hours of the morning, writing and rewriting essays.
PEER EDUCATION’S ROLE IN BREAKING THE STIGMA AND IGNORANCE OF PEOPLE SEEKING ASYLUM LUIZA KNIJNIK Luiza Knijnik, 16, is a student of Caringbah High School in Sydney, and the editor of OurWoke,1 an online magazine for young people which focuses on environmental, political and human rights issues. She is also a youth leader at the School’s Refugee Forum and part of the young people organising the project, Changing the Narrative. Luiza is also part of the NSW youth parliament (YMCA program) as a youth MP, representing Heathcote electorate.
As the 13-year-old girl who was once one of the ‘boat people’ reached the end of her story, we all gave her a standing ovation. Another girl stepped up on the stage and hugged her. It felt like the whole packed room was embracing them. She was finally heard. This inspiring scene happened during a peer education program called High School Refugee Forum. Peer education involves learning through one’s colleagues and peers. The peer educator is of the same social group of the learner, such as being of a similar age. Peer education pedagogy is grounded in the credibility that young people have with their peers. In Sydney, organisations such as NSW Health employ peer education to discuss topics such as sexuality and health in the program Play Safe Summer. The High School Refugee Forum was developed in 2017 in South Sydney for young people to learn about and discuss the challenges faced by refugees and people seeking asylum. So far over 500 students have been involved. This is the first time peer education has been used on this scale to break stigma and ignorance around refugee issues.
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The program was developed by young people and is run by Gymea Community Aid and Information Services, Jesuit Refugee Services, Carlton Shopfront, 3Bridges YouthZone, Sutherland Shire and Georges River Council. Local youth leaders organised and ran the full day forums, featuring immersive learning and table talk conversations, with the chance to hear personal stories of why people were seeking refuge in Australia.
Peer education changes minds and hearts. Students find their opinions about people seeking asylum transform. They say, for example: “I began to see them (refugees and people seeking asylum) as individuals with personal stories rather than as a collective group of people” and “it provided us with a different perspective than how the media portrays it.” “The forum was important because we needed to have our voices heard,” said youth leader, Maram.
Following the forums, schools were able to apply for funding to build their own initiatives. Students from Beverly Hills Girls High School and Engadine High School worked together to develop and lead a program called ‘Cultural Connections’ with peer educational activities and workshops focusing on experiencing and appreciating different cultures, enhancing and learning how to stand up against racism and prejudice. Kogarah High School students will host the refugee challenge in 2020, an immersive experience on the journey of a refugee. The youth leaders of the High School Refugee Forum received a NSW Government grant to continue their work, and will deliver the ‘Changing the Narrative’ festival in 2020.
The High School Refugee Forum has the potential to be used as a model for other Australian schools and communities. It shows the value of peer education and for young people to have their voices heard. There is no better way to change the stigma and ignorance about people seeking asylum than to have programs in which young people share their own lived experiences and engage in respectful discussions. In turn, young people with lived experiences feel heard and accepted.
Students participating in table talk discussions about issues and challenges people seeking asylum have to face.
As Elle, a youth leader in the High School Refugee Forum says: “What we need now is for the people to take control of their own thoughts, stop listening to the narrative the media feeds them. That is when we will change the narrative. That is when we will break the stigma.” A student reading out answers to a myth busting quiz.
1. See: ourwoke.com
EDUCATION IN TRANSIT: FINDING THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN HOPES AND RIGHTS TRACEY DONEHUE Tracey Donehue is a PhD candidate at the UNSW School of Education. Her research adopts a collaborative approach to facilitating quality education in transitory displacement contexts. She is also the founder and manager of the Cisarua General Education Development (GED) Support Project in Indonesia. Tracey has over 15 years’ experience as an EAL teacher in Australia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru and Indonesia. After firsthand experience teaching people detained on Nauru, Tracey has also been an outspoken critic of Australia’s offshore detention regime. The Refugee Learning Center is a refugee-led Alternative Learning Centre in Indonesia, which is hosting the GED Support Project in Cisarua. To learn more or make a donation, visit: www.refugeelearningcenter.com
When newly I arrived in Indonesia, I had the hope that I should study, continue my own education, but then, my surprise when I learned that it is not possible for me because I do not have the right. – Fatemah, 2018
Fatemah was 15 years old when she arrived in Indonesia. Now 20, her words reflect on the incompatibility between the hopes and rights of approximately 14,000 people experiencing protracted transitory displacement in Indonesia. Protracted transitory displacement occurs when the country in which people seek protection does not provide for permanent settlement, but allows them to reside in its territory, temporarily, until such time as they can be permanently resettled in a third country. Like most countries in Southeast Asia,1 Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol. Without such legal protection, refugees and people seeking asylum in Indonesia are deprived of access to formal education, employment, and justice.2 The denial of access to formal education in transit countries is amplified by the current record number of people seeking asylum, which has counter-intuitively coincided with the drastic reduction in the refugee intake quotas of traditional
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resettlement countries, such as the United States. For refugees in Indonesia, resettlement options are further diminished by Australia’s exclusionary resettlement policy, which limits acceptance of UNHCR referrals from Indonesia to 450 people per year from those registered with UNHCR before 1 July 2014, while excluding resettlement for anyone registering after that date.3 When Fatemah first arrived in Indonesia in early 2014, based on anecdotal advice, she expected to wait around two years for third country resettlement. Since then, the global situation has changed markedly such that in 2017, the UNHCR advised refugees and people seeking asylum in Indonesia that due to a lack of available resettlement options, they may never be resettled.4 This leaves refugees in Indonesia, as in other transit countries in Southeast Asia, in a state of long-term or even permanent temporariness. It further renders an entire generation of children destitute due to a complete lack of education. HOW DOES A LACK OF ACCESS TO EDUCATION IMPACT ON PEOPLE SEEKING ASYLUM?
“One of the problems of living a regular life, a normal life, is no education”. – Ali, 20 years old
Given that over half the refugee population in urban sites of transitory displacement are children, it is unsurprising that education is commonly prioritised as a challenge to be addressed both by the UNHCR and by displaced communities themselves.5
For children, attending school not only provides education, but also important socialisation and the normalcy of a daily routine in a safe space. The psychosocial and protective benefits of education are equally applicable to adolescents, particularly as they have hopes for the future, which are often contingent on educational access. As 18-year-old Madiha, a refugee in Indonesia for the past five years, noted ‘many of us didn’t finish our education, we have lost education, and now what is there for us?’ When children are denied access to education, they are denied hope, and they are denied the right to imagine their own futures. A lack of activity coupled with a lack of hope are precursors to situational depression. When Atifa first arrived in Indonesia at the age of 16, she described her first six months as just ‘passing the time’, saying she
‘had nothing to do at home…I was, you know, just sleeping and eating, not happy’. Most of the people I have worked with in Indonesia have described their initial time in Indonesia in similar ways. At 18 years old, Asad also highlighted the stress of ‘lost education’, stating he was ‘worried that if I stay in an inactive situation, outside education, my mind will lose its capability.’ Thus, while refugees experienced persecution in their home countries, leading them to flee and seek protection in a foreign country, marginalisation on a societal level based on migrant status continues to impede the realisation of their human rights in transit countries such as Indonesia. However, while waiting indefinitely for conflicts to cease in their home countries, or for resettlement, refugees in Indonesia, like elsewhere in urban sites of protracted displacement throughout the world, have proactively resisted externally imposed limitations with regard to education. Despite systemic barriers to formal education, and the initial advice from UNHCR to avoid organised activities, refugee communities have channelled their hopes and employed their agency to meet the educational needs of their communities. It is these conditions that have led to the emergence of refugee-led Alternative Learning Centres (ALCs) in Indonesia.
This goal has been validated for most of the centres, as their primary and secondary age students have successfully transitioned into age-appropriate class levels upon resettlement in the US, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. The ALCs also benefit their students and volunteer staff by providing them with a sense of purpose as well as a sense of belonging. Having experienced the ‘wasted time’ of their initial period in Indonesia, the volunteer staff recognise the negative physical and emotional impact of prolonged inactivity and limited social interaction. Ali described this common motivation when asked why he originally decided to become a teacher at an ALC:
WHAT DOES ACCESS TO EDUCATION OFFER FOR PEOPLE SEEKING ASYLUM STUCK IN TRANSIT COUNTRIES LIKE INDONESIA?
“I believe education can make possible the impossible”.
Because the thing is that, like sitting idle is very frustrating for me because, being here will give you nothing, and that’s also, the biggest problem for us, because if you are not doing anything, you can’t be living a healthy life. So, you must be engaged, you must be like active in something so that you can be like good again, like mentally and physically.
– Sediqa, 20 years old
A number of ALCs in Indonesia have been established by refugee communities themselves to fill the gap in educational access for refugee and asylum seeker children and adults. These learning centres are positioned outside the national education system, and hence are not able to confer recognised credentials. They, nevertheless, provide education and its associated benefits to displaced communities. The centres are all English-medium sites of learning in order to prepare students for third country resettlement.6 In this way, the students’ anticipated hopes of future mobility are accommodated. Masooma, one of the refugee teachers, noted with regard to the students at her ALC: They are going to the third country where it could be an English country so they need to communicate with the people there, so that’s why we are teaching them English. As teachers, it is our role to teach them or to build their confidence that they should go and communicate there…. They should have the skills that they could go and make their own futures.
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Similarly, Jafar, another volunteer teacher, reflected on the importance of belonging and having a purpose, noting that ‘in Indonesia you know that we are like jobless here, and so people are like really bored and so it’s a very good thing being among community and having a purpose, so that’s a good thing I found here at [the ALC]’. Having been positioned outside Indonesian society as refugees with limited rights, the ALCs represent a mesolevel community where people are welcomed and accepted, rather than othered and rejected. For the students and staff of the ALCs, being a member of a community with a common purpose is identity-affirming, which enhances confidence and emotional resilience. As periods of existing displacement in Indonesia now average seven years, the ALCs are concerned for their secondary exiting students who have completed five years of schooling at their centres. The ALCs cannot confer formal educational credentials, and Indonesian higher education pathways are not available to refugees.
HOW DOES ACCESS TO FORMAL EDUCATION IMPACT PEOPLE SEEKING ASYLUM STUCK IN TRANSIT COUNTRIES LIKE INDONESIA?
“Having an accredited diploma is essential for me as I have no school diploma or certificates. A formal qualification would take me to a whole new level of success and progress. The GED provides hope and motivation for me to be studying in a university in the future and to live with pride and dignity, and also to help others around the world.” – GED Support Project participant, 2018
Again, the refugee community in Indonesia is overcoming impediments to a lack of education by focusing on their right to formal education by preparing for the General Education Development (GED) diploma. The US GED diploma is an internationally recognised Year 12 equivalent credential. It consists of four academically rigorous tests. The passing of all four tests results in the GED diploma being awarded. The GED diploma is not ideal, being designed for USbased students, but at this point in time it is the only available formal education pathway, and as such allows refugees in Indonesia access to a formal education qualification for the first time. In the words of one GED Support Project (GEDSP) participant, ‘When I first heard about GED, I started becoming hopeful again and thinking positively about my time here’. The main reason participants wish to get a formal qualification is to ‘pursue their dreams’ of higher education or a ‘good job’ in an unknown third country. They see preparing for the test as countering the notion of ‘wasted time’ associated with transitory displacement. This utilisation of time is conceived locally as well as in the future. As one participant observed: GED means to me that I will have the chance to continue my education in the third country. Without wasting anymore time, I will have the proof and the eligibility for further education and qualifications from the moment I step out of Indonesia.
Participants also see GED preparation as a way to ‘learn the different method of education’, ‘know my education level compared to others around the world’, ‘to have what others have’, and to ‘experience doing a formal test’. In this way, the participants are becoming habituated with what they perceive as the educational culture of their futures. In doing so, they are not only gaining an academic credential, but also confidence and the hope of recovering their ‘lost education[s]’. Another common motivation for GEDSP participants is to help others in the same situation: ‘If I gain the GED diploma, I can be of more use to my fellow refugees by helping them prepare and sit the tests. Hopefully, then we can create a chain of positive activity’. This chain is underway, as those who have passed the tests are currently conducting GED preparation classes for the wider refugee community in Indonesia. But then what? As resettlement waiting periods stretch endlessly before refugees stuck in Indonesia, without access to employment or higher education, this path of hope comes to an abrupt halt. One possible benefit recognised by GED participants is that having an education credential can assist them to gain remote employment such as online English teaching. There is also the hope that the Indonesian government will change its policy and allow refugees access to employment in the future. Further, there is a glimmer of hope that refugees in Indonesia can continue their education through online tertiary studies or internationally affiliated universities in Indonesia. The latter option is preferable as research in the field shows that on-site learning in a real-campus context has considerably higher completion rates.7 A pilot program with a US-credentialed university in Indonesia is currently underway with three refugee students. All of these education initiatives - Alternative Learning Centres, GED preparation and testing, and access to internationally-affiliated universities – require significant support. Australia and New Zealand’s resource-rich tertiary institutions are well-placed to provide that support. WHAT MORE CAN/ SHOULD NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES DO TO FACILITATE ACCESS TO EDUCATION? The most significant impact neighbouring countries can make to the educational aspirations of people seeking asylum in Indonesia, particularly high-income countries with effective resettlement mechanisms like Australia and New Zealand, is to increase their UNHCR-referred resettlement quotas from Indonesia. Or in Australia’s case, to change its current prohibitive policy.
In the meantime, Australia and New Zealand’s tertiary institutions can have a significant impact in furthering Sustainable Development Goal 4 – achieving inclusive and quality education for all – in transitory displacement contexts in the region, such as Indonesia, in the following ways:
• Develop long-term partnerships with Alternative Learning Centres • Share resources and faculty expertise in response to ALCs’ specific needs • Place inducted interns at ALCs • Create and develop connected learning programmes and remote mentoring in coordination with on-site ALC staff • Support the implementation of a GED preparation curriculum through program design, on-site training, and remote mentoring • Provide targeted funding and in-kind donations • Coordinate with all stakeholders, including other support providers, to avoid delivery of replicated or contrastive programs. • Recognise the validity of informal education upon resettlement • Provide resettled refugees access to TEP programs and appropriate support mechanisms to enable successful completion • Provide scholarships to resettled refugees to ensure equitable access to degree programs.
1. With the exception of Cambodia and the Philippines. 2. Legally, refugee children are permitted enrolment in Indonesian public schools, but their acceptance is at the discretion of the school management and requires documentation in the form of passports or birth certificates, so in practice the majority of refugee children are barred from enrolment. School fees and language issues are also disincentives for parents to attempt to enrol their children in Indonesian schools. Asylum seeker children are not legally entitled to enrol in formal education. 3. Morrison S, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. (2014, November 18) Changes to resettlement another blow to people smugglers, media release: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/ display/display.w3p;query=Id:%22media/pressrel/3514311%22. 4. Cochrane, J. (2018, January 26). Refugees in Indonesia Hoped for Brief Say. Many May be Stuck for Life. New York Times; UNCHR. (2017, February). ‘Resettlement Information Leaflet’: https://www. unhcr.org/id/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2017/05/ResettlementInformation-Leaflet-English-Feb-2017.pdf.
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• Partner with universities in the region • Mapping required of internationally affiliated universities with credentials not conferred by the host country • Facilitate the delivery of Australian or New Zealand conferred degree programs at host-country institutions open to people seeking asylum and the local community. • Fund scholarships at host country universities with credential conferral capacity for people seeking asylum • Develop information networks to equitably communicate higher education opportunities to displaced communities. All of these recommendations need to be implemented in consultation with prospective partners, with respect, inclusivity, and sustainability as guiding principles. In particular, any collaboration with the ALCs must be responsive to their unique situational contexts and specific needs. The ALC staff’s experience and their shared educational, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, as well as their common lived experiences as English language learners, and of transitory displacement with their students, must be foregrounded as making them bestplaced to teach their students. Like in any educational context, existing knowledge and skills need to be acknowledged and form the basis of support.
5. Ali M., Briskman L. & Fiske L. (2016). Asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia : problems and potentials. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies,8(2), 22-43; Kirk J. & Winthrop R. (2007). Promoting Quality Education in Refugee Contexts: Supporting Teacher Development in Northern Ethiopia. International Review of Education. 53. 715-723. UNHCR. (2019). Stepping up: Refugee Education in Crisis. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR.; Wachob P. & Williams, R. (2010).Teaching English to Refugees in Transition: Meeting the Challenges in Cairo, Egypt. TESOL Quarterly, 44(3), 596-605. 6. In 2017, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia were the top four countries providing UNHCR referred resettlement. 7. Gladwell C., Hollow D., Robinson A., Norman B., Bowerman E., Mitchell J., Floremont F. & Hutchinson P. (2016). Higher education for refugees in low-resource environments: research study. Jigsaw Consult, United Kingdom.
WALKING IN THE RED DIRT AND THE RED CARPET:
QUALITY EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA’S FIRST LANGUAGES PROFESSOR TOM CALMA AO Professor Tom Calma AO is Co-Chair of Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF), Chancellor of the University of Canberra, National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking and former Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia. He was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2004-2010. Professor Calma, an Aboriginal Elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are south-west of Darwin and on the Coburg Peninsula in the Northern Territory, is an active advocate for Indigenous education and languages. He has been involved in Indigenous affairs at a local, community, state, national and international level for over 45 years.
NAOMI FILLMORE Naomi Fillmore is the First Languages Coordinator for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF). She has researched, advised, and managed language and education initiatives in a variety of settings, including in Australia, Nepal, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
‘Our culture, our language and our stories; we must hold on to tightly and not let go because these give us strength […] We must keep our language, our stories, our lands and our family connections. These are things that give us power in our land.’ - Makinti Minutjukur, Director, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Education Committee (PYEC), APY Lands1. In 2019, the world celebrated the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, set to extend into an International Decade from 2022.2 Access to education ‘in and about Indigenous languages’ is a major objective of the international year, recognising that education in Indigenous languages (often described in Australia as First Languages) is a human right and essential to the learning, engagement, and well-being of Indigenous children. It also has a cathartic and healing effect on adults who have been denied the right to practice their language and culture through past government policies.3 International recognition of these facts began much earlier than the UN international year. The Coolangatta Statement on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Education4 of 1999 asserted that ‘the use of existing Indigenous languages is our right’; and this right is protected under a number of international treaties and agreements to which Australia is a signatory (see Box 1).
BOX 1: INTERNATIONAL DECLARATIONS RELATED TO INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES IN EDUCATION • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948, Article 19) enshrines the right to freedom of expression and called upon Member States ‘to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.’ • The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007, Article 14) states: ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.’ • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989, Article 30) states: ‘A child […] shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.’ • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, Goal 4.5) set the following target: ‘by 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.’ (Emphases added)
Providing linguistically inclusive education to its Indigenous peoples is a basic human right that Australia has a duty to uphold. Domestic and international research shows that doing so leads to a wide range of positive academic, socioemotional, and health outcomes (Box 2). Where English is imposed as the sole language of instruction, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are systematically denied the right to learn in their own languages and the associated benefits.
BOX 2: BENEFITS OF FIRST LANGUAGE EDUCATION Teaching in First Languages boosts learning. • Research has shown that learning occurs best in the language a child speaks most fluently. Studies in locations as diverse as the USA, Peru, Kenya, and the Philippines show that early literacy develops best when children can explore early concepts in their first language.5 • These benefits extend to learning a second language (such as English); for example, Australian research has found a positive relationship between learning an Aboriginal language and decoding skills in Standard Australian English.6 • The benefits for learning is critical in the Australian context where large disparities in reading outcomes and other domains still exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their peers.7 Teaching in First Languages encourages engagement, confidence, and attendance. • When students can’t understand the language of instruction, let alone see linkages between what they are learning to their lived, cultural experiences, they inevitably disengage or ‘switch off’ from learning. • Research shows that low attendance rates in very remote schools are a reflection of young people’s choices to engage or disengage.8 Respecting Indigenous languages leads to a host of socio-emotional benefits. • Language and identity are intrinsically linked. In one of the most comprehensive studies conducted of Australian Indigenous languages and their speakers, over 90 per cent of respondents felt that the use of traditional languages is a strong part of their identity as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person.9 • Aboriginal communities implementing bilingual education programs have reported a greater sense of selfworth and acceptance.10 • Where this is not the case, children living in areas where language is being lost display high levels of cumulative stress.11 • Bilingual children and adults perform better in tests of empathy and reasoning.12 A strong sense of identity develops resilience and the ability to cope with life’s challenges. • A ten-year study of people in central Australia concluded that ‘connectedness to culture, family and land, and opportunities for self-determination’ contributes to significantly lower morbidity and mortality rates’.13 • Young people living in remote areas who spoke an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language were less likely to engage in anti-social behaviours and were less likely to be victims of physical or threatened violence.14
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THE FUTURE OF QUALITY EDUCATION The theme of this special issue raises the question of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities, particularly young people within these communities, view the future of quality education. Put differently, what do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, educators and communities consider the purpose of education to be and what changes do they see as necessary to achieve this purpose? The Remote Education Systems (RES)15 project sought to answer these (and other) questions through research involving over 1,250 education stakeholders from more than 40 remote schools across Australia between 2011 and 2016. It found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities believe the purpose of education is to learn Language, Country and local knowledge, and for students to become strong ‘Two-Ways’. When asked what changes were needed to achieve this purpose and ensure successful outcomes for children, responses overwhelmingly related to teaching and learning in Indigenous First Languages. ‘Two way’, ‘both ways’, ‘Red Dirt Curriculum’ and bilingual education are related approaches that share the common principle of building from local language and knowledge and scaffolding students across into engagement with western knowledge. Katrina Tjitayi, School Improvement Coordinator for the Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Education Committee (PYEC), describes the purpose of the approach as ‘to mould and shape young Anangu [Aboriginal people] into competent bilingual, motivated, driven and focused young adults with a strong sense of purpose in life, to confidently function and operate in two worlds’.16 As early as the 1970s, Aboriginal organisations have called for greater representation of their languages in formal school systems, a message that’s been consistently repeated throughout the decades.17 In 2019, two politicians made well-publicised calls for Indigenous languages to be included in schools. Northern Territory member of parliament Yingiya Mark Guyula (who made history by delivering his maiden parliamentary speech in the Djambarrpuyngu dialect of Yolngu Matha) and Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt both renewed demands to prioritise Indigenous languages in schools.18
Young people, many who are also emerging leaders in their communities, recognise the importance of Language in their own learning experiences and echo calls from Elders for Language protection and inclusion in education. In our work at the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF), we have the pleasure and privilege of working with young people around Australia (Box 3). Young people are able to leverage their position as community members with insider knowledge of community and culture, and combine their cultural strengths, with strong digital literacy skills and heightened interest in reclaiming their heritage Language.19 BOX 3: YOUNG ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER VOICES “I want students to have that link with community and culture through Language. This gives them the confidence to do more things and go more places.” –E lisha Umahwri, Anangu Educator at Indulkana Anangu School, APY Lands, 19 years old. “When I go away, people always ask me, ‘Where’s your island, what’s your Language?’ […] Dad showed me two ways – Miriam and Erub way – so Language is part of my identity […] I have always been fascinated by Language, and I want to save it.” –L ala Gutchen, Erub Mer Language Facilitator, Erub (Darnley Island) Torres Strait, 26 years old.
Yet despite the unwavering message going back decades, the well-documented academic, cognitive, and emotional benefits, and the fact that in many remote schools, almost 100 per cent of Aboriginal children are encountering English for the first time,20 formal education in Australia is delivered primarily in English.21 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia continue to be denied their right to linguistically inclusive education.
POLICY TO PRACTICE At the policy level, the Australian governments at both state/territory and national levels have made commitments to open spaces for the teaching and learning of First Languages in Australian schools. At the national level, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages22 provides pathways for schools to teach Indigenous languages as first, revival or second languages. The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration,23 signed by all state and territory education ministers, sets out that ‘all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples must be empowered to achieve their full learning potential […] and embrace their cultures, languages and identities’. Many states have their own policy documents related to the teaching or revitalisation of Indigenous languages. For example, the South Australian Bilingual Education Policy 24 seeks to ‘Strengthen and reinvigorate the learning of Aboriginal languages in children’s centres, preschools and schools’ and a ‘move toward a bilingual education model’. In New South Wales, where most Aboriginal children are heritage learners of traditional languages, the NSW Aboriginal Languages Act 201725 seeks to ‘promote, reawaken, nurture and grow Aboriginal languages across NSW’. Despite these policies, jurisdictions have been slow to implement commitments in practice. Though inclusive language education policies are important in and of themselves as representative of political will and acknowledgement of Indigenous rights, their impact is limited without action on the ground. Translating policy into practice will require clear, practicable implementation strategies with sustained commitment and resourcing.26 Indigenous communities, teachers and parents must be engaged in the transformative process of implementing language policy through consistent consultation, interaction and support. Pedagogically-focused teaching and learning materials in Indigenous languages are crucial to sustaining policy at the school level.27 PROMISING SOLUTIONS ALNF is among a growing number of organisations working to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to realise their vision for quality, inclusive, ‘Two Way’ education that is grounded in local knowledge and expertise. There are no ‘quick fixes’ and each language and community is different. ALNF’s partnership with the community on Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Strait is one example of our wider approach for empowerment, cultural continuity, and self-determination.
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The Erub community and ALNF have been working collaboratively since the beginning of 2019. Using a digital solution developed by ALNF and drawing from our experience in speech pathology and early childhood best practice, the Erub community is independently documenting graphemes, words, phrases, and stories in the Erub Mer language. Young people feature prominently in this work, with older generations, who are generally more proficient speakers and knowledge holders, working with younger community members, who have complementary digital and literacy skills, to achieve a common objective. The long-term goal is to use the collected content for teaching and learning activities, both within and outside of school. Community members will continue to lead this work, supported by training and mentoring in early language and literacy practice. Valuing and developing the capacity of local educators (as opposed to teachers posted temporarily to the island) is a vital component of the approach, recognising their important and ongoing role in improving academic and affective outcomes and in decolonising the education system.28 LOOKING FORWARD Australia’s First Languages are essential to achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’ vision for ‘Two Way’ education now and into the future. First Languages support children’s learning, engagement, and long-term health and well-being. Although policy commitments at the state and national levels are important precursors, policy is insufficient without engagement, empowerment and resourcing at the local level. Non-traditional solutions like technology, complemented by models that engage young people as leaders and implementers alongside their Elders, are promising options already being implemented by organisations like ALNF. Indigenous leaders (young and old) are united in their calls for two-way, bilingual education for the next generation, and through the UN International Year and Decade of Indigenous Languages, these calls are now echoed globally. Upholding their right to linguistically inclusive First Language education gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the freedom to succeed in both worlds: or as Katrina Tjitayi (PYEC) puts it;
‘we want our children to be strong and proud of their Language and culture. That way, they can walk on both the red dirt and the red carpet’.
1. Lester, K et al. (2013). Red Dirt Curriculum: Re-Imagining Remote Education. Sidney Myer Rural Lecture 3, Alice Springs, Northern Territory. 2. United Nations. (2019, December 18). General Assembly Adopts 60 Third Committee Resolutions, Proclaims International Decade of Indigenous Languages, Covering Broad Themes of Social Equality. United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12231.doc.htm. 3. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. (1997). Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/ content/pdf/social_justice/bringing_them_home_report.pdf. 4. “The Coolangatta Statement on Indigenous Rights in Education,” Journal of American Indian Education 39, no. 1 (1999): 52–64. 5. Thomas, W. & Collier, V. (2002). A National Study of School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students’ Long-Term Academic Achievement. Berkeley: Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence; Republic of the Philippines. (2008). A Report of Comparative Test Results. Report presented to the House of Representatives (Manila: Republic of the Philippines; Piper B. et al. (2018). Scaling up Successfully: Lessons from Kenya’s Tusome National Literacy Program. Journal of Educational Change 19, no. 3,293–321, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-0189325-4; Hynsjö, D. & Damon, A. (2015). Bilingual Education in Peru: Evidence on How Quechua-Medium Education Affects Indigenous Children’s Academic Achievement. Economics of Education Review. 6. Jones, C., Chandler, M. J., & Lowe, K. (2011). Sounds, Spelling and Learning to Read an Aboriginal Language. in Re-Awakening Languages: Theory and Practice in the Revitalisation of Australia’s Indigenous Languages, ed. John Hobson et al. Sydney: Sydney University Press. 281–92. 7. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA. (2018). National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy Achievement in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2018. (Sydney: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)), https://nap.edu.au/docs/default-source/resources/2018-naplannational-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2. 8. Guenther, J., (2013, December). Are We Making Education Count in Remote Australian Communities or Just Counting Education?. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education 42, no. 2,157–70, https://doi.org/10.1017/jie.2013.23. 9. Marmion, D., Obata, K. & Troy, J. (2014). Community, Identity, Wellbeing: The Report of the Second National Indigenous Languages Survey. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. 10. Kral, I. (2009). The Literacy Question in Remote Indigenous Australia. (Canberra: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University). 11. Zubrick S. R. et al. (2005). The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Children and Young People. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. 12. Rubio-Fernández P, & Glucksberg, S. (2012). Reasoning about Other People’s Beliefs: Bilinguals Have an Advantage. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 38, no. 1 : 211–17, https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025162. 13. Rowley K G. et al., (2008). Lower than Expected Morbidity and Mortality for an Australian Aboriginal Population: 10-Year Followup in a Decentralised Community. The Medical Journal of Australia 188, no. 5 283–87, https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008. tb01621.x. 14. House of Representatives. (2012). Our Land Our Languages: Language Learning in Indigenous Communities (Canberra: House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs), https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_ Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_ Committees?url=atsia/languages/report/full%20report.pdf.
15. Guenther, J., Disbray, S. & Osborne, S. (2016). Red Dirt Education: A Compilation of Learnings from the Remote Education Systems Project. Alice Springs: Ninti One Ltd. https://nintione.com.au/ resource/RedDirtEducation_CompilationLearningsRES_EBook. pdf. 16. Lester et al., Red Dirt Curriculum: Re-Imagining Remote Education. 17. Aboriginal Languages Association (1981, January, 4). “Newsletter” 1 https://www.jarrak.com.au/files/Issue%201%20April%201981. pdf; Mandawuy Yunupingu (2009). Double Power. in Double Power: English Literacy and Indigenous Education, ed. Peter Wignell. (1999). Melbourne: Language Australia. 1–4; Calma, T. (2009). They Are Our Children, This Is Our Community. AIATSIS Research Symposium on Bilingual Education, Canberra. https:// www.humanrights.gov.au/about/news/speeches/2009-speechbilingual-education. 18. Breen, J. (2019, May, 8). ‘Your Failure, Not Ours’: Aboriginal MP Slams NT Remote Education in First Yolngu Policy Speech. ABC News. https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-08/first-speechin-aboriginal-language-to-nt-parliament/11092190?pfmredir=sm; Archibald-Binge, E. (2019, November, 19) ‘Not Us versus Them’: Ken Wyatt Says All Students Can Benefit from Indigenous Languages, History. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrived from https://www.smh.com.au/national/not-us-versus-them-kenwyatt-says-all-students-can-benefit-from-indigenous-languageshistory-20191119-p53c3x.html. 19. Fillmore, N., Bemrose, D., & Gutchen, L. (2019). Language, Technology, Community Nexus: A Case Study of Erub Mer. Causes of Language Endangerment: Looking for Answers and Finding Solutions to the Global Decline in Linguistic Diversity. Foundation for Endangered Languages XXIII, University of Sydney. 20. Wilson, B. (2014). A Share in the Future: Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory, 304. 21. Hogarth, M. D. (2018). Addressing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Education: A Critical Analysis of Indigenous Education Policy. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Queensland University of Technology. https://doi.org/10.5204/thesis.eprints.118573. 22. Australian Curriculum Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages. (2015). Canberra: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2015). https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/ languages/framework-for-aboriginal-languages-and-torres-straitislander-languages/. 23. Education Council. (2019, December). Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration. Alice Springs: Education Council. https:// docs-edu.govcms.gov.au/documents/alice-springs-mparntweeducation-declaration. 24. “Aboriginal Education Strategy: 2019 to 2029” (2018), https:// www.education.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/dept-ed-aboriginaleducation-strategy-2019-2029.pdf. 25. “Aboriginal Languages Act 2017,” Pub. L. No. 51 (2017), https:// www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au/pdfs/languages-legislation/ Aboriginal-Languages-Act-2017.pdf. 26. Malone, S. (2007, September 17). Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Implications for Education Policy. 27. Kaplan, R. B., Baldauf, R. B., & Kamwangamalu, N. Why Educational Language Plans Sometimes Fail. Current Issues in Language Planning 12, no. 2. 105–124, https://doi.org/10.1080/14 664208.2011.591716. 28. Guenther, J. & Disbray, S. (2015). Why Local Staff Matter in Very Remote Schools. Annual AARE Conference, Freemantle: Australian Association for Research in Education, 14; Peacock, H. & Prehn, J. (2019, September 2) The Importance of Aboriginal Education Workers for Decolonising and Promoting Culture in Primary Schools: An Analysis of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC). The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education 1–7, https://doi.org/10.1017/jie.2019.13.
THE MOTHER OF ALL PROJECTS: CALLING FOR DECISIVE GOVERNMENT ACTION ON FIRST LANGUAGES FAITH BAISDEN Faith Baisden is the Manager of First Languages Australia (FLA)1, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. She is a member of the Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee and has a strong interest in the production of resources for language programs and the use of new technologies to help with language teaching. Her language is Yugambeh from south-east Queensland.
GEOFF ANDERSON Geoff Anderson is a powerful advocate within the schools and the whole community of Parkes in central-west New South Wales, helping to teach people of all ages. He is a committee member of First Languages Australia, and a member of the Parkes Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and the Wiradjuri Council of Elders.
First Languages are reverberating across the country’s sightlines and airwaves at an exciting, unprecedented rate. During 2019 - the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages - acclaimed hip hop musician and dancer Baker Boy blasted Yolnu Matha into the lives of a new generation of Australians. He delivered his acceptance speech for Young Australian of the Year in both English and Yolnu Matha from north-east Arnhem Land. Meanwhile, around Australia, Elders are working with municipal councils to rethink public signage and rename cultural festivals; State libraries are signing up to First Languages collections strategies; schools and cultural centres are offering classes in local mother tongues, and media outlets are broadcasting stories in and about Indigenous languages across all platforms. For almost a decade, First Languages Australia (FLA) has been at the forefront of the work of raising national and international awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. In addition to rolling out an ambitious national marketing strategy that included the formation of
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multiple media partnerships, we have represented over 30 language centres to lobby state and federal governments for funding, curriculum reform, policy and legislation. We have coordinated significant language conferences, backed the development of teaching resources and technologies, and coordinated research and community consultations to inform our research, strategic advice and organisational priorities. Although great progress has been made on many of these fronts, a pervasive lack of long-term vision around the protection of First Languages has resulted in ephemeral policies, piecemeal funding and until now, an ad hoc approach to the training and development of language workers, interpreters and teachers – the cornerstone of this work. We are confronted by the stark reality that our precious First Languages – the oldest living languages in the world - are on the brink of extinction. Of the many hundreds of original First Nations languages, only about 120 are still spoken in Australia, and only 13 traditional Indigenous languages are still spoken by children (2016 Census). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have an unequivocal human right to control and access education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning. This is defined by the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007, Article 14).2
Language advocates gather for the launch of Jarrak: Our languages journey, a timeline and knowledge bank of milestones in language advocacy: www.jarrak.com.au Photo: Yale Macgillivray.
As the national peak body for First Languages, we are calling on the Australian Government to take responsibility for protecting these rights. There is no single solution, quick fix or straight-forward pathway to achieve this. There are, however, several potential approaches that could warrant further consideration. We propose a national strategic framework that could bring together existing national programs and policies in a more coordinated, cohesive and cost-effective manner. Currently, in the absence of overarching frameworks or aligned legislation, Indigenous language policies are too often produced and promptly dispensed with whenever a government changes â€“ or even just a key public servant. FLAâ€™s public knowledge bank, Jarrak3, overviews language policy and programs developed in Australia since the 1970s. Among other things, it demonstrates the extent to which language policies across federal and state governments have historically been constrained by siloed, highly localised approaches, and short shelf lives. A national strategic framework building on the New South Wales Aboriginal Languages Bill 20174 could lead to law reform that would raise and align standards across the country. A precedent for this approach can be found in the introduction of uniform Occupational Health and
Safety (OHS) legislation, the Work Health and Safety Act 20115. This was enacted in response to disparate and inconsistent laws across jurisdictions, and the need for a more cohesive, comprehensive approach to protecting the rights of workers. It was achieved through a National Review into Model OHS laws which the Workplace Relations Ministers Council then used to create model legislation (the Model WHS Act6 ). This was then adopted by Commonwealth, state and territory governments. The same approach could be applied to bring about a similar alignment in languages policy, using the New South Wales Bill as a model starting point that could then be adopted by other state and territories. First Languages Australia contends that all government departments should take responsibility for considering First Languages within their portfolio. Under the current system, First Languages has been relegated to an Arts/ Communication/Culture portfolio. This argument has recently found a response from the federal Department of Education and Training, which will this year engage FLA to scope the development of a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language workforce training strategy, in a project jointly funded through the Indigenous Languages and Arts stream of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
A critical goal of the project will be to achieve a consistent nation-wide commitment to developing and funding culturally appropriate training pathways to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages education. In the Employment, Skills and Business portfolio, we need to see the shoring up of these education strategies with clear government-funded careers – such as for teachers, researchers and translators – supported by a fair industry award. It is the strongly-held position of First Languages Australia that one of the best ways to protect First Languages is to invest in the next generation of learners and teachers. That means providing two-way education and viable, secure employment. In the spheres of health and justice, it would mean mandating language training for all staff working with Indigenous peoples whose primary language is not English, and investing in and expanding translation services. Too many Indigenous peoples in highly vulnerable situations currently lack access to assistance in their own languages, and this can literally be a matter of life or death. In the case of health and social services, extensive research by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has also shown that connecting to traditional language is critical to Indigenous people’s health and wellbeing. (2014 AIATSIS NILS)7. Other government agencies spanning tourism, foreign affairs and environment would also be enriched by policy commitments that would mandate a commitment to First Languages. There are striking examples emerging of the power of Indigenous languages to invigorate tourism projects and this is something that should be supported at all levels, particularly by local governments. Within the fields of science and the environment there is a growing awareness of the depth of knowledge relating to all aspects of this land that is held nowhere but within the first languages of the land. Fundamentally, our position is that greater bipartisan political action on First Languages as a cultural right could be attained by the Australian Government through ratification of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.8 The UN’s definition of ‘safeguarding’ in this context encapsulates the active and multi-pronged nature of this work as: “identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, particularly through formal and non-formal education, as well as the revitalization of the various aspects of such heritage.”
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Parties to the Convention are expected to adopt a series of common-sense measures including an integrated policy and community-directed educational and training programs, and these align with FLA’s advocacy mandate. Although ratifying UN conventions does not guarantee political action, law reform or consequences for failure to adhere, it could provide a framework and catalyst to amending current federal legislation, such as acknowledging Indigenous intangible cultural heritage as a right under the Australian Copyright Act 1968. There is more research to be done, and much to be gleaned from progressive international legislation on Indigenous languages. For example, in Taiwan, a country with a comparable overall population to Australia, a similar relative Indigenous population and context of endangered Indigenous languages, national legislation in 2017 was introduced aimed at promoting and preserving the languages of Taiwan’s Indigenous tribes.9 Among other things, the new laws designated the country’s 16 Indigenous tribal languages as national languages; required the government to invest in research and teaching materials; and mandated improvements in public signage featuring Indigenous languages. It is heartening to note that in the absence of human rights charters, binding federal laws or long-term national frameworks, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have achieved so much through grassroots activism and community-driven initiatives to protect, revive and promote their languages. This positive activity urgently needs to be consolidated and built upon, and it is the responsibility of all levels of government to introduce cohesive national frameworks and legislation to support the best of this work, in a way that reflects the wishes and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
There is a lot at stake when faced with the looming threat of losing tens of thousands of years of wisdom held in these precious mother tongues. Equally, there is so much to be gained from reviving and protecting these languages. These are our cultural heritage, and we have a right to learn, speak, protect, document and pass them on to the next generation and, where communities consent, to share these languages and enrich the lives of non-Indigenous Australians also.
FIRST LANGUAGES AND WELLBEING – GEOFF ANDERSON
You can miss your culture even when you haven’t experienced it. It’s so hard to explain. You have this void inside you and you don’t know what it is until you stumble across it. I knew there was something missing, I just didn’t know what. I hadn’t left the house for four years. I’d had a breakdown – depression, agoraphobia. The turning point was when a Gamilaraay lady came into my house and asked if I wanted to go and listen to Stan Grant Senior giving Wiradjuri language lessons. I said yes. Just being asked that question, I could feel in my being what was missing all my life. I’d lived with this big black void and I’d tried so many things to squash it: grog, drugs, anything I could find. As soon as I walked into that Wiradjuri language lesson, I thought - this is me, this is where I belong. Stan taught us to sing Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree and that became like a mantra for me. I learnt to block out the rest of the world when I sang it, I was able to take my old black dog for a walk, and from then on, everything changed. I went around to Parkes East Primary School one day and I was asked if I could teach the kids how to sing Heads and Shoulders in another language. They were blown away when I taught it to them in Wiradjuri, and that started everything off. Then the teacher rang me saying we need more. That was late 2005. Some of us who went to Stan Grant Senior’s classes ended up really bonding, we’d meet once a week, we moved from meeting at my house to meeting in a classroom. Then some of the primary schools started asking us about teaching Wiradjuri language. So we were teaching language at the same time as we were still learning, it’s the best way I’ve found. I’m still learning! Now, Wiradjuri is taught to about 1300 students a week; every primary school student here in Parkes learns it, and this year we’re reintroducing it at the high school too.
1. https://www.firstlanguages.org.au 2. ‘United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wpcontent/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf 3. ‘Jarrak: Our languages journey’: https://www.firstlanguages.org. au/resources/jarrak-our-languages-journey 4. ‘Aboriginal Languages Bill’: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/ bills/Pages/bill-details.aspx?pk=3446 5. www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2011-018
I’ve known so many other people who’ve had their lives changed by connecting with language. One student started out really shy, the late Ron Wardrop and I taught him Wiradjuri in school, and then he came along to the adult Wiradjuri classes that I ran. He was keen as mustard, joining in, learning the words of his mother tongue. From there, he ended up becoming school captain, got scholarships, went to university and he’s now a qualified lawyer in Sydney. He always says that without learning his language, he wouldn’t have had the confidence to do any of that. There’s another young woman who I’ve been mentoring as a Wiradjuri teacher. She started last year on three days a week, and the principal was so happy with her work he’s put her on full time this year. She had been a real homebody, had a few health problems, but now she’s got so much cultural pride. I know exactly how she feels, that hollow piece inside of you being filled in with the language. You can see it in her face every day. She’s finding herself through the words. To see her come out of her shell like that in just 12 months - you can’t tell me language doesn’t work, that it doesn’t have these profound effects.
First Languages Australia is working with regional language centres nationally to develop a map of Australian languages that reflects the names and groupings favoured by community.
6. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/guide-model-workhealth-and-safety-act 7. Additional research from the Office for the Arts also attests to the wellbeing impact of language maintenance and revival. (Culture and Closing the Gap). 8. ‘Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’: https://ich.unesco.org/en/convention 9. Indigenous languages development act takes effect; Taiwan Times. https://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=2&post=116946
A DREAM OF A CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM DR MELITTA HOGARTH Dr Melitta Hogarth is a Kamilaroi woman who is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Prior to entering academia, Melitta taught for almost 20 years in all three sectors of the Queensland education system specifically in Secondary education. Melitta’s interests are in education, equity and social justice. Her PhD titled “Addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples in education: A critical analysis of Indigenous education policy” was recently awarded the Ray Debus Doctoral Award for Research from the Australian Association for Research in Education.
The United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)1 asserts the right to self-determination. The draft UNDRIP faced criticisms of its call for selfdetermination, which ultimately led to all four British colonial states – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States – voting against the UNDRIP in 20072. The UNDRIP has become a vehicle for Indigenous peoples to speak back to settler states. Article 14 of the UNDRIP is particularly important to consider as an Indigenous education academic, as it speaks to Indigenous peoples’ right to education and establishing their own educational systems. As such, Article 14 acts as the provocation for this paper.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures are still seen as ‘bolted on’ rather than ‘built in’ to the Australian education system as it is?
“Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”3.
Governments talk big and you would be forgiven for thinking that there has been a shift in political rhetoric in recent years. Successive prime ministers have espoused to make a “commitment that […] Government would do things with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not do things to them”5 which has most recently been translated into the formation of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peaks) to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice in decision-making 6. The Coalition of Peaks is made up of various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies, both Federal and State. However, among the almost 40 governance bodies, only two are explicitly working in the field of education. It is difficult to see how education is a focus when there is so little representation in this key governance body.
Such a statement has often been interpreted as a precursor to the notion of decolonising, or what is more favoured here in colonial Australia – indigenising, schools. However, as Tuck and Wang argue, decolonisation is fraught with complexities 4. The notion of decolonisation has the potential to continue and maintain the process of colonisation under the guise of addressing White fragility. And then the question needs to be asked – what does a decolonised education system look like? How can its curriculum be decolonised when funding is dependent on the enactment of the Australian Curriculum and reporting to western standards? With that in mind, how can Indigenous peoples establish their educational systems? Is this why
Unfortunately, underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the education space is evident throughout. The More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teacher Initiative (MATSISTI) project worked to increase the Indigenous teacher workforce in education7. By 2015, there were 3,100 classroom teachers who identified as Indigenous amongst a teacher workforce that totalled almost 280,000 fulltime teachers. The lack of representation in schools reinforces an imbalance that allows for White settler ideologies and knowledges to be maintained and championed. Despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students making up over 5% of the total student population within colonial Australian schools,
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it was not until the introduction of the Australian Curriculum in 2011 that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures were included into classrooms8. The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) further acts to position Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a deficit and perpetuates the notion of failure9.NAPLAN involves the annual testing of Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 Australian students reading, writing, spelling and numeracy skills. Something that is often ignored is that Indigenous students were excluded from the classroom up until the mid 1970s and that schooling was purposefully used within colonial Australia to ‘civilise’ Indigenous youth10. The trauma experienced within the schooling system is perpetuated with the marginalisation of Indigenous knowledges, implicit and explicit racism and the privileging of Western ways of knowing. One need only review the yearly Closing the Gap Prime Minister Reports to see how little progress is being achieved in addressing the inequities prevalent in the western schooling system11. So, where to from here? How can these issues be addressed? The Coolangatta Statement on Indigenous peoples’ rights in education12 provides principles to be embedded within educational systems that are supported by international charters and conventions. The production of this document was a slow process that involved several consultations with Indigenous peoples around the world over several years. The resulting principles centre the right to be Indigenous and the right to self-determination. I dream of an education system that privileges and centres Indigenous knowledges; of a space where Indigenous peoples are respected and encouraged to share their alternative worldviews to counter White settler narratives. I dream of an education system where Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing are just the way things are done and not seen as a novelty event within the already crowded curriculum. I dream of an education system whereby the Indigenous student is not instantly branded with a deficit sticker and teachers hold low expectations. I dream of a classroom where opportunities for Indigenous kids to shine and be the teacher is ever present. Such a school space is not possible without the increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all levels of decision-making, and more importantly, the increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators who have knowledges and experiences working in education. Such a school space is not possible if the ‘measuring stick’ of success is bound within understandings of the White settler state and their knowledges, a privileging of Standard Australian English as the only means of communication despite the multiliteracies present in the Indigenous child13.
Such a school space necessitates the classroom teacher using culturally responsive pedagogies that take a holistic view of the student; recognising and valuing the differences they bring to the classroom setting.
A day when this is observable in schools is a day that we as classroom teachers and educators can truly say we are working to promote reconciliation. It is a day that I hope I can see in my lifetime. ACARA. (2013). National Assessment Program - NAP. Retrieved from http:// www.nap.edu.au/ ACARA. (2015). Australian Curriculum v 8.3. Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum.edu.au/ Beresford, Q. (2012). Separate and unequal: An outline of Aboriginal education 1900-1996. In Q. Beresford, G. Partington, & G. Gower (Eds.), Resistance and reform in Aboriginal Education (Vol. Revised Edition, pp. 85119). Crawley, W.A: UWA Publishing. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (2016). Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s Report 2016. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia Retrieved from https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/reports/ closing-the-gap-2016/assets/pdfs/closing_the_gap_report_2016.pdf Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (2017). Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2017. Retrieved from http://closingthegap.pmc.gov. au/sites/default/files/ctg-report-2017.pdf Ferreira, M. L. (2013). The UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. In M. L. Ferreira (Ed.), Acting for Indigenous rights: Theatre to change the world (pp. 7-14). Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Human Rights Center. Hogarth, M. (2019). Y is standard oostralin english da onlii meens of kommunikashun: Kountaring White man privileg in da kurrikulum. English in Australia, 54(1), 5-11. Johnson, P., Cherednichenko, B., & Rose, M. (2016). Evaluation of the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative Project: Final Report. Retrieved from http://matsiti.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ MATSITI-2016-Project-Evaluation-Final-Report.pdf Morgan, B., West, E. G., Nakata, M., Hall, K., Swisher, K., Ahenakew, F., . . . Blair, N. (2006). The Coolangatta Statement on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Education. In P. Read, G. Meyers, & B. Reece (Eds.), What good condition? : Reflections on an Australian Aboriginal Treaty 1986-2006 (pp. 229-236). Canberra: ANU E Press. NACCHO. (2019). Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap. Retrieved from https://www.naccho.org.au/programmes/coalition-of-peaks/ Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1-40. United Nations General Assembly. (2008). The United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/esa/ socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.
(United Nations General Assembly, 2008) (Ferreira, 2013) (United Nations General Assembly, 2008, p. 7) (Tuck & Yang, 2012) (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2017, p. 4) (NACCHO, 2019) (Johnson, Cherednichenko, & Rose, 2016) (ACARA, 2015) (ACARA, 2013) (Beresford, 2012) (See, for example: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2016; Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2017) 12. (Morgan et al., 2006) 13. (Hogarth, 2019)
AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
INNOVATING HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT PROJECT 5: A WEEKEND FOR EVERY WORKER UNSW Sydney researchers are beginning a two-year study into how a reduced work week improves the health and wellbeing of construction workers and their families. ‘Project 5: A Weekend for Every Worker’ will study the workforce at the NSW Government’s $341 million Concord Hospital redevelopment site as they work a Monday to Friday roster. Australian Human Rights Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Natalie Galea will lead a team of interdisciplinary researchers who will survey and interview workers and their families as they make the change from the traditional construction roster which includes Saturday work.
A BLUEPRINT FOR DIGNITY IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT The Draft Principles for Dignity in the Built Environment is a collaborative project to lead the construction sector towards a more socially sustainable future. The Principles include recommendations for national and local governments, investors and developers, architects and design firms, construction and engineering companies, building maintenance and technology firms. The Principles will be launched with an event that brings together research partners and industry leaders from around the globe to unveil a vision of dignity and inclusion.
CONTACT US Find out more on our website: www.humanrights.unsw.edu.au/research
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